A New Jersey born singer-songwriter who has released twelve albums of crafted writing to date and who has had his songs covered by such respected songwriters as Steve Earle, Vince Gill and Billy Bragg. He has worked closely with a number of producer's including Garry Tallent, Buddy Miller and Dan Penn. His current album Incident On Willow Street was produced by Stewart Lerman and included the songs Living With You, Mary Of The Scots In Queens and One Honest Man. Trooper has long been a Lonesome Highway favourite and took the time to answer these questions.
You can look back over a career of over twenty years as a singer/songwriter. What reflections do you have of how things have changed or evolved over the years?
For me I’d say my songwriting has hopefully evolved. I’ve learned to take more time with a song and go over it and edit, edit, edit!
Your ambitions will have obviously have changed over the years and the fact that you are still performing and recording suggest the core inspiration is the music itself. Would that be your inclination also?
I still have professional ambitions. Still want to reach a larger audience, still want to work larger venues but the youthful “rock star” thing is long past. I still believe, and maybe more so now, that the work is thing. What I mean by that is working at songwriting and performing and trying to connect with an audience is my priority and goal.
The landscape for delivering music has changed dramatically over the last few years. How has that affected you?
’m now the artist, record label and publisher. This takes more time and effort away from concentrating on just being “the artist”. Kind of had to pay attention to it all before anyway but it’s a different psychology.
The digital age has it’s pros and cons. I can deliver my music on my own and see more financial reward right away from selling and downloads but no matter how much I pay out to promote my music I still don’t seem to have the reach I did when recording for a label. That may change. We’ll have to see. The first rule in this business is there are no rules.
The advent of such funding sources seems ideally suited to an artist with a reasonable fanbase. Does that make it easier or are things still as problematic as ever?
Funding is a huge issue for the independent musician. Kickstarter and the like have been a great asset but how many times can you go back to your fans for your recording and promotion budget? I’m hopeful this record can generate enough income to finance my next project although life and bills can be quite demanding.
Has the lived circuit changed too and has the age of the audience been a factor in how and where you play these days?
My audience ages right along with me. I’d like to see more young people at my shows but it’s a tough sell. I believe my songs relate to any age audience but it takes some convincing to get 20 somethings to a 50 something’s show.
You lost your friend the late, great Larry Roddy who was a great supporter of your music, Has that been a factor in not being back in Ireland in recent times?
Larry was not just an agent for me. He was a dear friend. I learned so much about so many things from him. It has been hard for me to tour Ireland with out him there to talk about Dylan, The Blues, and Irish history. I’ll be back though.
The new album Incident On Willow Street is another great addition to your fine body of work. Was there a particular inspiration behind the songs?
Not really. It was more subconscious than that. The songs have a lot to do with escape or finding a different path than the one you’re traveling. This all came out from the writing more than contemplating what I was going to write. I will say the songs are not autobiographical. That would bore the listener. I like to say my songs are reality based fiction.
You worked with some fine players on the album such as Larry Campbell and producer Stewart Lerman. How does the selection of the producer/players effect the outcome of the music?
Casting players for an album is key to the outcome. I’m lucky to know such great players. They’re musical instincts are just incredible. Couldn’t do it without them.
What are the highlights, for you, of the work you have produced to date?
Hard to answer that. I still look forward to every gig. Still love the writing and recording process. It’s all still fresh and amazing to me.
The nature of what you do can be lonely as you tend to travel a lot solo. Has that become more difficult as time goes on?
Yes and no. Alone can be productive and positive but there are those mornings you wake up, wash your face, look up in the hotel bathroom mirror and say “ oh no, not you again”.
Do you still draw inspiration from similar sources?
I look for it everywhere. Books, articles, movies, music, conversations etc. I just wish I could remember all the mental notes I take.
What are the next projects for you and for the future?
Right now I’m trying to work and promote this record as much as possible. As I go I’ll write songs and I’ll have to see where they take me. Hopefully Ireland in the fall of 2014.